The Florida Atlantic Owls will look to continue its domination of the FIU Panthers on Friday night when the teams meet in Miami. The famed "Shula Bowl" has been dominated in recent years by the Owls. They've won three straight in the series by an average margin of 31 points.
COVID-19 has kept both teams from being further along in the season. FIU has had five games either postponed or canceled this far compared to three for FAU. Among Conference USA teams competing in 2020, only Rice has played fewer games than FAU and FIU.
The Panthers (0-3, 0-1 CUSA) are still looking for their first win of the season and will come in at 0-3. The Owls are 3-1 and coming off a hard-fought 10-6 win over WKU. FIU was defeated 19-10 by Jacksonville State, an FCS member, its last time out on Oct. 23.
Florida Atlantic at FIU
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Florida Atlantic -9
When Florida Atlantic Has the Ball
Offense has not been a strong suit for either team this season, but Florida Atlantic may have found a spark last week when it inserted Javion Posey into the lineup at quarterback. Posey replaced an ineffective Nick Tronti and led the Owls on a game-winning, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by Posey's 11-yard touchdown run. Posey didn't complete a pass, but adds a new element to the offense with his legs. He rushed for 60 yards on just nine carries in the win.
As a whole, FAU ranks 11th of 13 teams in total offense in Conference USA. Only WKU scores fewer points per game. Despite the struggles, FAU has a nice stable of backs led by Malcolm Davidson, who missed last week's contest. Davidson leads the Owls with 195 rushing yards on 7.5 yards per carry. Clemson transfer TJ Chase is the top receiver with 12 catches for 167 yards.
Despite being coached by prominent defensive mind Butch Davis, the Panthers have really struggled on that side of the football. Through three games, FIU has yielded nearly 460 yards per contest and almost 29 points. If there has been a bright spot for the Panthers, it's been the ability to get after the quarterback. FIU has seven sacks in three games with linebacker Tevin Jones and defensive lineman Davon Strickland tallying two apiece.
Safety Richard Dames is probably the best player for the FIU defense. For the year, Dames leads the team with 24 total tackles. Dames' brother Rishard and Josh Turner each have interceptions this year for the Panthers. Last season, the Owls finished with 579 yards of offense in a 37-7 beatdown of FIU.
When FIU Has the Ball
Offensively, FIU averages the fewest yards per game in Conference USA with 268 per contest. Against an FCS team last time out, the Panthers managed just 156 yards of offense. Freshman quarterback Stone Norton has played mistake-free, but is completing just 53 percent of his passes on just 6.5 yards per attempt. Bryce Singleton is the top receiver for FIU with just 90 yards.
If the Panthers are to generate any sort of offense, it will probably need to be on the ground. Running backs D'Vonte Price and Shaun Peterson Jr. have been a nice 1-2 punch for the Golden Panthers so far this season. Price has 303 yards and three rushing touchdowns on an outstanding 8.7 yards per carry. At 215 pounds, Peterson is averaging a solid six yards per rushing attempt with two scores on the ground.
For what it has lacked on offense this season, Florida Atlantic has made up for defensively. The Owls rank in the top 20 nationally in total defense and fourth in scoring defense, yielding just 11.5 points per contest. That starts with FAU’s ability to get after the quarterback. The Owls are tied with Marshall for the Conference USA lead in sacks per game. Defensive end Jaylen Joyner and linebacker Leighton McCarthy have combined for 9.5 sacks and both rank in the top five in the league in that category.
The bad news for FIU is that the Owls are also very good against the run. FAU gives up a little more than three yards per carry and around 104 yards per game on the ground. Linebacker Chase Lasater is the top tackler for FAU this season with 34 stops. With three sacks, freshman linebacker Chris Jones also is worth keeping an eye on.
Neither offense is a sight for sore eyes in this one, but Florida Atlantic has been downright dominating defensively under coordinator Jim Leavitt and first-year head coach Willie Taggart. That will ultimately be the difference on Friday night as the Owls' offense will find itself in a lot of favorable situations. For FIU to have a chance, it would probably need a lot of self-inflicted wounds from FAU.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 24, FIU 7
Podcast: Week 11 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.
(Leighton McCarthy photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic Athletics)